Monthly Archives: March 2021

Political Literacy makes business sense copy

Political Literacy makes business sense


Robin Grainger, Co-Founder & CEO, GK Strategy talks political literacy with the brilliant Rebecca Deegan & I Have a Voice

March 2021

You will be hard pressed to find a business or organisation that is not impacted by the decisions of politicians and regulators. They determine tax rates; employee protections; regulation in relation to capital, competition and consumers; trade tariffs and manage global supply chains; which sectors receive subsides; and the level of investment in supporting infrastructure or R&D. I could go on. The point is – politics is central to how organisations function and to the role they play in the economy and society.

But while COVID and Brexit have made these linkages clearer, we see a big gap between ‘political knowledge’ and ‘political literacy’. Most businesses and investors know what current policies are (political knowledge) but often don’t understand why and how policy might change, the role they can play in informing those changes, and the potential impact of those changes (political literacy).

Public affairs professionals help organisations improve their political knowledge, but mostly, we help them understand political risk, and navigate Parliament and its processes, to minimise risk and create a supportive policy landscape. We are able to do this most effectively, and to the benefit of businesses and the government, when there is an existing understanding of these interlinkages.

Improving understanding of how politics works will enable business leaders to better identify and analyse relevant political risks. In doing so, they will be able to factor the potential to maximise upsides, as well as the need to minimise and mitigate negative risks, into their business strategy and plans.

This also benefits the government

Business leaders who understand political risk often share their expertise and experience with policymakers to ensure that policy developments have the desired effect and that unintended consequences are minimised. This is a good thing. In the same way that charities such as Shelter understand how to prevent and reduce homelessness, businesses have the data and insight to know what their consumers (the public) want and what protections are needed to ensure markets work effectively. Therefore, business and government often work together to come up with solutions to policy dilemmas.

We have also seen this in relation to climate change, where investors, companies, governments, regulators, ratings agencies and business forums have worked closely together to introduce a mix of voluntary and mandatory tools, regulations, reporting requirements and best practice guidelines to drive investment and business practices to address climate change and create a greener economy.

This example demonstrates that not only do businesses provide products that seek to align economic goals with societal and environmental goals, but they also help to inform and in some cases drive policy developments in the public interest. On the flip side, this means the sector is inextricably linked to political decisions and understanding how these decisions are made is beneficial to business leaders.

There are many examples of this level of interaction and interdependence between business and government. Leaders in these businesses stand to benefit greatly from knowing how decisions are made in Parliament, both so they can feed into those processes and so they can keep on top of what those decisions mean for their operations. Being politically literate makes business sense.

Political literacy

Political literacy does not mean pushing one political party’s agenda over another. In fact, as public affairs professionals it often is crucial that we remain party-neutral. Instead, we help clients to navigate the UK’s democratic and parliamentary processes. For example, the role of Select Committee inquiries in developing policy recommendations and All-Party Parliamentary Groups’ ability to build consensus and awareness.

These are skills that would benefit all business leaders, and let’s face it, all members of society as ultimately these decisions impact them, either as consumers or citizens. That’sAt GK Strategy we’re supporting I have a voice – a social enterprise that delivers political education to young people up and down the country.

Our profession is uniquely placed to share its experience with anyone who wants to understand how politics works. We work across political parties and political issues. We understand the need to find workable policy solutions. We know that building cross-party support is often much more productive than being divisive. Spreading this foundational level of knowledge will serve our industry, our clients, our stakeholders and our society.

For too long, too many public affairs professionals have been happy to give the impression that the world of politics and regulation is a world that only people in the Westminster bubble of politics, media, think tanks, trade associations, and consultancies can really understand.

It’s time for this to change.

Politics is complex but not unintelligible. It’s the responsibility of our profession – and indeed educators – to communicate that and make politics a more navigable territory for everybody.


Health & Social Care Insights – 2021

Today GK has published it’s newest health & social care insights report for 2021. Our strategic advisors and health focused consultants have shared their thoughts on the following key areas:

  • 2021:A year of two halves for health and social care
  • What does 2021 (most likely)mean for social care
  • The CQC 5-year strategy: an opportunity for engagement
  • Three likely priorities for the new Children’s Commissioner
  • New streamlined licensing and patient access process for medicines
  • What next for pharmacy after COVID-19?
  • What can we expect from the independent review of children’s social care?

Download your copy here: Issue 4_Health insights 2021


Education and Skills Insights – 2021

GK has published its newest Education insights report today, with commentary from our education focused consultants covering:

  • COVID-19 and the profile of schools funding
  • DfE announcements look to the future of work
  • Three likely priorities for the new Children’s Commissioner
  • What next for higher education post-Brexit?
  • What can we expect from the independent review of children’s social care?

To set up a meeting to discuss these areas further, please contact

Download your copy here: Issue 5_Education insights 2021


5 takeaways from Sir Norman Lamb and Phil Hope’s ‘in conversation’ event on the future of mental health care

GK Strategy hosted a policy insights event on the future of mental health in the UK, hosted by former Care Minister and GK Adviser, Phil Hope, with Sir Norman Lamb, Chair of the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and former Health Minister during the Coalition Government. 

In a watershed year for mental health policy, the discussion was wide-ranging and covered everything from the review of the Mental Health Act to the spending power of local authorities. Key issues to note from the discussion include:

  1. There is not yet parity of esteem between mental health and physical health services

While funding commitments in mental health have increased in recent years, it still does not receive the ‘parity of esteem’ that so many have been calling for and that the Government hopes to achieve.

Sir Norman Lamb was quick to highlight that waiting lists are still ‘shockingly high’, particularly for young people who can sometimes see waits of a year before receiving treatment. Moreover, facilities need upgrading and there are still systemic barriers to the way mental health is perceived which prevent reaching parity. The review of the Mental Health Act is one area this could be addressed, as current proposals are a step in the right direction.

  1. Workforce and skills shortages in mental health may prevent progress

Phil Hope highlighted that workforce and skills is ‘still a massive issue’, and Sir Norman Lamb recognised that quality recruitment in the independent and third sectors can be very difficult. Reform to the immigration points system was recognised as a route to improving international recruitment.

The need for investment in training was also highlighted as a necessity for upskilling staff. Recent investment announced by the government for training and expanding mental health teams in schools, to support children and young people, was welcomed.

  1. The shift from competition to collaboration poses both a threat and an opportunity

Due to the UK’s departure from the European Union, European procurement rules no longer apply to the UK. These rules required a robust, competitive process but the UK’s departure aligns with a move to collaboration rather than competition. Sir Norman Lamb expressed some concern that this lack of competitive process may lead to reduction in quality, as providers become less driven by the standards of their competitors. Both Sir Norman Lamb and Phil Hope agreed therefore that there needed to be other means of holding the system accountable.

Sir Norman Lamb highlighted the importance of provider collaboratives, as well as the new statutory setup of Integrated Care Systems (ICSs). Both speakers shared concerns that local boards held no decision-making powers and became simply ‘talking shops’. Sir Norman Lamb expressed his concern that the proposals for ICSs did not require the presence of a mental health voice at the table – this was optional as per the decisions of each board.

  1. The importance of capital investment and Treasury requirements

Both Phil Hope and Sir Norman Lamb recognised a ‘huge need’ for capital investment in learning disability and mental health facilities. Sir Norman Lamb stated that the quality of some facilities ‘is currently unconscionable’. There was recognition that capital funding limits (known as CDEL) imposed by the Treasury have led to massive constraints in this area.

It was suggested that this may open the door for public-private partnerships, because the private sector can make the investments for capital. It was suggested that controls in the NHS White Paper on capital expenditure decisions would be ‘a retrograde step’.

  1. The case for social care reform continues to mount

It was noted that reform of social care has been a talking point for a long time, but whether it will come soon neither Sir Norman Lamb nor Phil Hope could predict. Sir Norman Lamb recognised that the UK does not ‘spend enough as a society’ on social care, and that the ‘consequences are there for all to see’. Sir Norman Lamb said that he personally prefers a social insurance model for social care funding that protects younger working adults. The role of local authorities in mental health care was also discussed, and Sir Norman Lamb highlighted that new funding for mental health services cannot simply recategorize funding from other budgets, such as those for local authorities.

A recording of the event is available to view if you were unable to join us or would like to revisit

To discuss these issues further or if you have any questions related to mental health and social care policy, please do get in touch via and we would be delighted to setup a call with you.

The Integrated Review- UK’s big-ticket view of the world

The Integrated Review: UK’s big-ticket view of the world

On Tuesday 16 March the government published the long awaited and much anticipated Integrated Review, Global Britain in a Competitive Age. The year-long review of security, defence, development and foreign policy was led by No10 foreign policy adviser John Bew with support from officials across Whitehall. At its core, it provides a synthesised view of the UK’s national security posture and foreign policy for the next decade and beyond.

The review sets out fundamental pillars of sovereignty, security and prosperity. Much has changed since the last Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2015, particularly from a geostrategic perspective. Importantly, this latest review seeks not only to respond to this change and account for it but, crucially, also to shape the landscape that will follow.

In his statement to the Commons, the prime minister said the UK would need to ‘relearn the art’ of competing against countries with opposing values. The ambition is clearly to position the UK as a big state actor committed to global issues. The role of technology in underpinning this ambition will be crucial. The prime minister rightly committed to incorporating it ‘as an integral element of national security and international policy’ and to firmly establish the UK as a global leader in science and technology and as a ‘responsible cyber power’.

The review outlines how the UK’s reach should be global, with particular focus on the Indo-Pacific region as a bulwark to an increasingly aggressive China. It also stresses the importance of deepening our relationships with allies and partners around the world, a recommitment to NATO and others, as well as moving more swiftly and with greater agility.

Many of the headline findings of the review have been well trailed in the media over recent days, including a refurbished COBRA complex and increasing the stockpile of nuclear warheads. What is increasingly clear is the extent to which the UK views both Russia and China as big state threats. The review describes Russia as an ‘active threat’ and China as a ‘system challenge’, although the UK still hopes to deepen its trade and investment relationship with the latter.

It is interesting to note that the UK assessment is closely aligned to that of the US, which recently published its own interim look at national security. Much like the UK review, the US interim review had a heavy focus on great power competition with nation-states and a slight shift away from counterterror initiatives. The similar approach being pursued by both the UK and the US should provide confidence to those who have been concerned at the vacuum created across the traditional diplomatic and defence alliances and institutions over recent years.

The team of advisers and officials who have produced this review have set a clear direction of travel for government. They have identified the critical need to tackle big state issues, while opening trade and investing in cyber and technology. However, with department’s still experiencing shortfalls in budgets, decisions in the forthcoming Spending Review will demonstrate the government’s seriousness to put this plan into action.

Contact Scott Dodsworth, Director, for more information and how to engage with government across defence, trade and international relations. Email


GK Adviser Phil Hope In Conversation with Sir Norman Lamb on the future of mental health in the UK

On 10th March, GK Strategy hosted an ‘in conversation’ event on the future of mental health in the UK, hosted by former Care Minister and GK Adviser, Phil Hope, with Sir Norman Lamb, Chair of the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and former Health Minister during the Coalition Government.

The discussion was wide-ranging and covered everything from the review of the Mental Health Act to the spending power of local authorities. However, for those who wish to recap the event or who were unfortunately unavailable to join us, you can watch the session back here:

We hope you found the event and this summary informative. We have distributed alongside this paper a link to a recording of the event if you were unable to join us. To discuss these issues further or if you have any questions related to the discussion, please do get in touch via and we would be delighted to setup a call with you.